The move by the Biden to declare elements of the Wagner Group a Russian Private Military Company (PMC) as a Transnational Criminal Enterprise shows two things about the decision making process.
First off will be the positive. This moves shows that the Administration is concerned with the network that the group has managed to build globally to maintain Russia’s status as a World Power while promoting Moscow as a viable third option vis-a-vis the United States and China as well as developing new economic interests for the country.
Russia sees the activities of the group in a positive light. However Washington does not
The negative image being reported almost daily does lead one to ask just how does Washington view the activities of the group? The bureaucracy within the beltway has made several decisions regarding actions that have been made or undertaken by the group. The decision to have the group sanctioned as a TCE came from the Treasury Department and was based on information regarding efforts by the group to resupply the Russian Military during their current operations in Ukraine. This was not the only action levied against the group.
Back in December 2022 the State Department designated the group as an Entity of Particular Concern (EPC)under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) a designation that has been usually levied against Non-State Actors such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab which are also designated to be Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) by the State Department. This designation was limited in scope to their operations in the Central African Republic.
However these are not the only areas where Wagner has been accused of nefarious activities during their operations. The group has been known to support the Libyan Warlord General Khalifa Haftar, during his efforts to seize control of the country, launched operation in Syria in support of embattled President Bashir Al-Assad as well as reportedly behind the second coup Burkina Faso coup in 2022 which would lead to the withdrawal of France from the country in early 2023.
The group is also under investigation for its role in some of the massacres in Mali that have taken place since it entered the country in 2021 by the United Nations. There has not been any sanctions levied for these activities.
Another crisis spot where the group has also managed to avoid scrutiny has been during the transition in Sudan. The group is known to be a supporter of Hemedi who gained notority as being commander of the Rapid Support Forces first in Darfur then on a national lever after the ouster of former President Omar Al-Bashir. It is widely speculated that Hemedi is actually the person calling the shots behind the scenes in Khartoum right now.
This is another relationship to scrutinze as well. Wagner does have a presence in Khartoum where it conducts logistical support for their operations in the Central African Republic. The group has also reached a deal with the Government of Paul Biya in Cameroon to use the port of Doula as a logistical hub as well. So when the seperatists struggling to have their own state of Ambazonia complain of Russians Mercs attacking them we cannot ingnore the fact that we were warned.
Does the seeming haphazard sanctions imposed by the US show a sign of the murkiness of the activities of Wagner? that answer appears to be a resounding yes. What will the next action look like? That is the great question. Will the answer come from the State Department? or will it come from the White House? Will Congress use its power of oversight to demand even further action?
The answers have to come soon. Recent reporting suggests that the group has identified three new countries that it seeks entry into. They are Liberia which has close traditional ties to the US, Sierra Leone which gave us the term Conflict Minerals and also suffered through an internal conflict and Ivory Coast which had a Civil War a decade ago.
The clock is ticking and opportunity knocks for the group.